What Is A Contextual Menu In Windows & How To Use Them

Find out what a contextual menu is in Windows. As we dive in, I’ll discuss why they are necessary and their benefits.

It’s not a concept exclusive to Windows, but many operating systems of most kinds use context menus.

What is a Contextual Menu in Windows?

What is a contextual menu in Windows?

When you click your right mouse button, a menu will appear. It is known as the contextual or context menu.

Quite often, secondary and tertiary hover menus are found. This allows for more options to be opened under an umbrella menu item.

What’s the purpose of a contextual menu?

One of the main purposes is to make the UI (User Interface) more compact. Keeping extra options in a menu that doesn’t take up any room, allows for less screen area to be used by static inbuilt menus or options.

Some critics argue that it creates confusion for the user and other issues like where it can be displayed because of limited space areas.

In my view, they are essential and a reasonable solution for the limitations in our current 2D user interfaces.

Where do they get used in Windows?

The main places they would be used in the Windows UI, files, icons, and within them and various settings. They are also used in software applications. Contextual menus are even available in your browser.

In short, they are everywhere. Context menus are so widely used that it’s difficult not to see them when right-clicking your mouse anywhere.

So, if you ever get stuck when wanting to accomplish something in Windows or any software, see what the contextual menu offers. It might have what you are looking for.

They are also used in other operating systems for computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices.


The contextual menu has been around for a while. Invented in the mid-’70s by Dan Ingalls, a pioneer of object-orientated computer programming.

It will most likely be around for some time and solves many issues around user interfaces across many platforms and software.